10 Ways to Support Your Wife as Stepmom

I could feel the tears welling behind my eyes.  I distracted myself by unloading toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.  I sensed my husband, Guy, was trying to make eye contact with me, but I just couldn’t or the dam would burst.

He sat down and patted his leg, an invitation for me to come sit.  So, I did.  Here it comes, I thought.

As soon as I sat, two tears rolled silently down my cheek.

“Is life hard today? You’ve been quiet all afternoon,” he said.  I nodded.  “What’s hard?”

“Being a stepmom,” I replied, wishing that it weren’t true.

“Tell me how.”

“I don’t know what’s worth sharing and what I should just get over,” I said.

“Tell me,” he repeated gently.

It took courage for me to let the words pass through my lips.  I didn’t want to hurt him with something I would say.

Finally, I mustered the truth.

“Sometimes I feel like an outsider in my own home,” I said as the tears fell harder.

I have run marathons and half marathons.  I’ve taught classrooms full of squirrely children.  I’ve buried my mom and my oldest son.  I’ve weathered the storm of an unwanted divorce.  I’ve moved from a city in one state to a small town in another.

But nothing has challenged me as much as being a stepmom for one single reason – nothing has required more sacrifice coupled with less control.

His daughters were 8 and 11 when I married their dad, and they are two of the most incredible people on the planet!  At the time, I lived alone with a dog and cat, so stepping into their home as a stepmom meant tremendous change for my daily life.

In my conversations with my husband, he openly admits that he does not know what my experience is like since I did not bring children into our marriage.  He tells me that he wants to know, and I imagine there are other husbands who might want to know what it’s like for their wives.

So, here are 10 things to remember as you support your wife as stepmom:

  1. The fact that you want to know what it’s like for her is the biggest gift.  When my husband invites me to share what is hard, it removes much of the weight.  I no longer feel that I have to carry it alone.  His questions, as a way of gaining understanding, make us partners and debunk the lie that I need to hide my emotions and protect myself. It shows me how much he cares about me.
  2. She wants to be good stepmom.  Fairy tales, like Cinderella, depict step-mothers as evil and unloving.  But the step-moms I know are the exact opposite of that.  The stepmoms I know are kind, sacrificial, and loving probably because they are kind, sacrificial, and loving people to begin with. This is a new role to me. I didn’t know how to be a stepmom to them, but I am learning, because I want to be a great one, as do the step-moms I encounter.
  3. Your love for your biological children is an innate feeling; hers is an action by choice.  My love for all of my children is equal but different.  I’ve borne two sons myself, and there is an inherent love for the child whom you carried, who shares your DNA.  Loving everyone else on the planet is a choice.  I am aware that I am not as naturally patient or generous toward people who did not grow in my womb or vice versa.  But I want to love my step-kids deeply, and we are growing in love for one another. But I know that they don’t love me the same inherent way they love their dad and their mom. I know these relationships will take time to grow, and I appreciate it when my husband points out the ways he sees me love the kids and the ways he sees them love me back.
  4. She needs your patience as you listen to her disappointments. I had no idea what I was actually signing up for when I said yes to being a stepmom, because it’s so much more than making extra food at dinner and going to their sporting events.  I think Mike Jantzen worded it perfectly when he said, “She is always settling for less than she hoped for. You may have been a great catch, but what tagged along shattered some of her dreams.  No woman dreams of sharing finances between two households, or of always having another woman’s schedule and decisions affect her life. Her romantic ideals did not include having dates with you interrupted by text messages from your ex.”  These instances, and countless others, are daily reminders that this is not the life we dreamt about, and sometimes we need to express it, be understood, and then we can move on.
  5. One-on-one time with you is a necessity.  Most couples get a few years, at least, of just the two of them.  You did not get that.  “I do” meant “I do their spelling words with them starting now.”  She is happy to help.  But she married you for YOU. A regular date night will do wonders for the connection, trust, and fun in your relationship.  Get it on the calendar and guard it.  Put your phones down and only respond to emergency texts that need to be dealt with immediately.  Two hours away is enough to recharge for a week.
  6. She needs a place of her own.  When the kids are at our place, their stuff finds its way to every room in the house.  I was not prepared for the take-over that happens when they walk in the door, and she may not be used to the chaos that comes with kids either. But even a seasoned mom needs a place to catch her breath.  Maybe it’s a room, maybe it’s a chair in a corner of your bedroom.  Just make sure there’s a door.  Retreating for a little while produces energy she’ll need later.
  7. She needs you to notice her efforts.  All parents need affirmation, but for stepmoms, it’s even more important.  She may not receive the hugs and “I love you”s that Dad receives, despite doing as much for them as he does.  Model the “Thanks for making dinner for us” and encourage the kids to say a simple “thank you” when she does something special for them.  Then, when you have a moment just the two of you, point out the ways she’s sacrificed or the things you admire about her parenting.  You will be her most important cheerleader, and your praise will make a huge difference.
  8. It’s really hard having another woman influence her home. This was perhaps the most shocking part for me at first.  The kids’ mom has not been inside our house since I’ve been living in it, yet, her presence is everywhere.  I hear the kids talking to her on the phone every night.  Her decisions affect our schedule – like when the kids will be at our house or not, what activities they do, how we spend our money, etc.  She’s not cruel about it; I just wasn’t prepared to not be the sole woman who runs my home, and it is really hard for me.  I (and even our infant son) sometimes take a backseat to what she decides for the sake of her kids, and that is something I have to constantly surrender. Again, she’s not being mean, and I think she’s a great mom.  And yet, her decisions affect us. When I dreamt of being a mother, this was not how I pictured my family’s home would be.
  9. She wants to be a decision maker.  When there are decisions to be made, the results will impact me and affect our home, so I want my husband to include me on the decisions as much as possible.  When I talk with moms of nuclear families, they are the decision makers for almost everything – dinners, schedules, activities— and get to run their family life how they want with the partnership of their husband.  My husband and his kids were used to making decisions without me for years, so it was a shift for all of us. The kids will get to run their own home and make all the decisions when they’re adults someday. Today, they are kids, and we are the adults. I appreciate when my husband pulls me aside and asks for my input before asking the kids.  It’s another (huge) gesture that makes me feel that we’re a team.
  10. She wants to build a “we”.  Despite all of these difficulties and challenges, I would still choose him.  His eyes still make my heart race and his smile makes me giddy.  I love watching him as a dad, and I grow more madly in love with him every day.  I think we make the best team, and there’s no one I’d rather wrangle all this craziness with than him.

So, there on my husband’s leg, I told him all the ways I feel like an outsider in my own home (as listed above). 

“Dad, Daaad?” a child yelled as she came around the corner.

“Hold on, Honey,” he said. “I’ll be there in a second.” But she kept coming until she saw my back to her, and I didn’t turn around. “I’ll be right there,” he said again.

“Oh,” she replied when she saw me wiping tears. She walked away quietly.

I continued to cry, and my husband continued to listen, acknowledging my feelings and difficulties.  When I had said all I needed to say, he said, “Well, I can’t pretend that I know how you feel, but I will listen…and cry with you.”

I looked up and into his eyes for the first time since the conversation started.  I saw his tears.

And that was really all I needed.

Because, husbands, what it really boils down to is a step-mom just needs to know she’s not alone. 

She has you.

Molly Huffman – http://www.mollyhuffman.com

Take Up Your Cross

It’s been over ten years since I was handed my cross.

Mom and Dad asked my sisters and I to come over for news from the doctor.  Once we’d all gathered in the living room, Dad became solemn. “The doctor has decided there’s nothing more to do.  It’s time to stop treatment,” he said as tears pooled in his eyes.  He put his head in his hands and wept. I squeezed Mom’s hand tighter.

And with those words, a cross was placed on my back.  A death began that day. 

There are some really bizarre phrases in the Bible.  There are sentences we read and question, “What does that even mean?”  Sometimes it takes us years of mulling over the words, of turning it in our hand like a gem to see the light come in and sparkle from different angles, before we see the beauty in it.

Jesus said words that were easy to understand as well as some that take some mulling. 

One of the phrases I have a new perspective of is found in the books Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Five different times, Jesus tells us “take up your cross.”

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matt. 10:38

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  Matt. 16:24

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  Mark 8:34

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  Luke 9:23

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27

In high school, I equated a cross with suffering.  I assumed “taking up our cross” meant we would all have to suffer in life, so we should embrace it, plan for it.

That was one perspective, and I think that IS part of what Jesus was saying.

But now I also see it means more than just suffering; it means death. 

That’s what a cross is.  It’s a death tool.  For Jesus, a cross would usher in His physical death, and our crosses cause death as well. 

For us, it means dying to ourselves – our quest for comfort, our control, our desire for money or our pride.

Before my mom died, I hadn’t had to carry a cross.  Life was easy.  Yes, I’d had a couple break-ups, but I recovered.  I lived in a nice part of town with my dream teaching job and a new husband and puppy.  Then, Death came creeping into my neatly planned life.

I am thankful it did.

My cross rustled me from my comfort. Death snapped me out of the trance of Me – my plans, my comfort, my control – and got me thinking about His plans, His comfort, His control.

Allow me to blow my own cover: I would not have chosen my cross, even though Jesus tells us it’s for our good.  I would have continued creeping toward comfort and my own plans had it not been for God coming behind me, lifting me up by my shoulders, and setting me back down in a new direction (against my will).

But it didn’t take me long to see it was a grace. 

I remember the week after my mom died, I was sitting in that same living room again.  Over the course of her illness and death, I had experienced God in fresh, personal ways.  Ways I’d always wanted to experience but never had.

Suddenly, a verse popped into my mind: “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine…”  Wow, I thought. I can’t believe that even though I want her here so badly, I don’t want to trade what I’ve come to know about You, Lord.  I know where she is and that I’ll see her again.  Then it continues, “or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

And I got it!  I had found life, because I’d finally seen Jesus for the first time in my life.  But it took a death.

Sometimes I asked, “Why, Jesus?  Why does it have to be this way?  Why can’t I have You AND all the things and people I want?”

Because He also said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).  We think we can, but we can’t. 

We can follow our own desires and plans OR we can follow His.

But notice Jesus isn’t strong-arming us into this.  He says, “If…”  If we want to be His followers, we have to give up our own way.

I surrendered my plans ten years ago, AND I have to continue to do it.  That’s why He said, “take up your cross daily.”  It’s not a one-and-done.  New circumstances keep arising in my life where I have to pick up the cross and die to myself every single day.

But He also never leaves us empty-handed.  Ever.  What does He give us for this costly trade?  He says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

We get to experience the true meaning of LIFE which goes beyond this earthly life.  And not only that, but Jesus says in the next verse that He “is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

When Jesus places a cross on our back, it’s not a punishment.  It’s a resurrection tool. He wants to put to death the parts of us that do not reflect Him so that we can point the world to Him.

When I think about the most joyful and content people I know, they are the ones who’ve carried their cross and followed Jesus.  They’ve lost children, endured irreversible injuries, experienced unwanted divorce, battled cancer, and are living with chronic illness.

They’ve died to themselves and Christ has raised them up with hope, joy, and a deep and life-giving knowledge of who He is.  And they can’t help but radiate, because they have found LIFE. Just as He said: “If you give up your life for Me, you will find it.”

Maybe there’s nothing big in your life right now, but we die to ourselves in small ways, too. When you just want to go to bed, but she suddenly remembers she hasn’t studied for the test that is tomorrow. When someone takes the credit for your work, and you let it go. When they’re dilly-dallying in the left lane for ten minutes, and as you finally pass them, you choose not to glare.

Not all crosses are huge.

Die. To. Self.

I have a sign in my closet that is my mantra right now.  It’s the lyrics from an Elevation Worship song, “O Come to the Altar.”  The words of the final refrain are:

Bear your cross

As you wait for the crown

Tell the world

Of the treasure you’ve found

It reminds me of this calling to bear the cross which God has placed on me.  It probably looks very different than the one He’s placed on you, but there is a personal purpose to the cross He places on each person.  He says, “take up YOUR cross” (emphasis mine).  Only He knows the work He is doing in each person, but we are all given the chance to die to ourselves…so that we may LIVE.

Let’s be people who bear it well, which won’t be easy.  But He promises a reward for those who do. And as we wait patiently for it, let’s not miss the opportunity to radiate what God has done in us.  Let’s tell the world how He has resurrected us from our former selves.  Let’s tell them about the treasure He’s given us in the midst of the darkness!

He’s not being cruel.  He is saving our very souls.

I’ve carried this cross for over ten years – loss of a mom, loss of a son, loss of a marriage and a home, loss of all the plans I had for myself – and yet my soul feels sure and strong. The cross is doing the work He promised.

And HE. IS. THE. TREASURE.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[l] Is anything worth more than your soul?”  Matthew 16:24-26

An Exciting Update!

I said I had some big news, and I do!

One friend immediately texted me, “Are you pregnant? Is it twins?” To which I wanted to say, “Who do you think I am? I’m six weeks postpartum!” So, I’m sorry to those who were expecting pregnancy news (insert eye roll)…

I saw a post from Tony Evans this week that came at a perfect time. He said,

“You cannot confuse purpose with scope. Your giftedness is your giftedness no matter what the level of the scope is it’s being used at any particular time. So a person who has a gift, if they’re using it in a small place should still be using that gift in that place for the glory of God while praying for God to expend their territory…you’re in your purpose if God can use you in the gift He’s given you in the scope He has you in right now, while you’re trusting Him for a broader context for that gift to be used.”

Then today, I saw a quote by his daughter, Priscilla Schirer, which said, “Abraham lived out his trust in God by making plans to obey what he’d been told.”

I have known for the past few years that God wants me to tell the story of what He’s done in my life in the midst of loss and tragedy in recent years. I’ve tried to obey by sharing it both online and in person, and for a long time I prayed that if God wanted me to write a book (which I felt He was calling me to do), that He’d just arrange for a publisher to call me up, and they’d say something like, “Hey, we saw your blog. We want to make it a book.”

But I’m learning that sometimes, as Priscilla said, we have to MAKE plans to obey what He’s calling us to do.

You may not know this, but there are two ways to “get published.” First, you can self-publish a book on any topic you want. You could publish a book about space travel and no one would tell you that you don’t know anything about space travel. You pay the costs, and all the copies belong to you. Self-published books don’t normally sell as many copies as traditionally published books, and typically the market and resources for marketing are much smaller.

The other way to be published is the traditional way — through a publishing house. The author does not take on the cost — the publisher does — and there tends to be a wider reach, etc…but the road to the traditional publishing house is narrow. Very, very narrow. They won’t publish just any ol’ book on space travel, for instance.

My goal has never been to be a New York Times Best-seller. I am an ambassador for God, and I know God doesn’t care about best-sellers. He cares about obedience, and reaching people in their pain, and spreading His love through the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus into people’s hearts.

So, that’s my goal, too.

But I wanted to do this task the absolute best I could. I want this story — His story — to reach people. So I made plans to have the help of a writing coach, a man who knows the publishing industry with the hope of someday being published traditionally.

If you go the traditional publishing route, you can’t just send your writing to a publisher. It used to work that way, but not anymore. Now, you need to have an agent first. The agent represents your work and he/she takes it to publishers.

It’s a very competitive market — both to get an agent and to be published. It’s terrifying, really. I am not a competitive person! Just please, someone come tell me you want to represent me — I’m afraid of rejection and failure!

No one came. I had to go to them. I sent my proposal for the book (what it would be about) and parts of the manuscript (the actual writing) to a bunch of agents. I hoped there would be 27 who would want to sign me right then…but there weren’t. I waited. And waited. I second-guessed myself. Maybe I should have written that differently? Maybe I didn’t do everything I could have? Maybe this silly story won’t matter to anyone except the people who know me?

But then, one day, I got an email: “We would like to have a phone call with you about representation.”

My jaw dropped open! Don’t get too excited, Molly. No one has signed anything yet. They have to want to represent me out of the many requests they get a day — no small task.

Later that week, I talked on the phone with two of the agents from this agency. They love Jesus, and they are really excited about this story. They are professionals who have been in the industry for a long time.

Their goal: to encourage people with stories like mine! And they want to represent my book!

And so, the big news is: I GOT AN AGENT!! (Sorry if you were hoping for a baby.) This is huge, a major first step toward getting this story published.

Now, I hesitated telling you this part. Isn’t it more exciting to just say, “I’m getting published!” when and if that happens? Yes. However, I need you, my Home Team.

That was step #1: Get an Agent. Step #2 (Get a Publisher) is even bigger. And harder.

So I’m asking you, my Home Team, to pray. This book, this story, will go in front of editors beginning in February.

I want what the Lord wants.

I can’t deny how vulnerable I feel, especially by sharing this with you in writing. I was okay with writing vulnerably when it came to losing Tage, because I had no control over it. It wasn’t my fault. And I knew, with God, I couldn’t lose.

But this…this is me trying to do something, to make plans. I’m bringing this project I’ve been writing for years, and they might tell me it’s not good enough.

But He whispered, “No. I have brought you to this place.”

So this is still God doing something. And with God, I still can’t lose.

So, friends. Please join me in prayer that God will continue to use this story to impact whomever He wants, that this project would be whatever God wants it to be, not just what I want.

It’s terrifying, but sometimes we live out our trust by making plans about what we’ve been told by Him.

Big. Bold. Terrifying. But, here we go….

And I wonder, what has He called you to do? You’re scared. You might fail. But if God has called you to it, He won’t let you fail. What is one way YOU could live out your trust in Him by making plans?


Just Remember This: Jesus is Funny, and Middle School Will End.

 

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I never felt more unsure of myself than that moment.

 

“What?” I whispered to her, praying that I had misheard.

“I think you have poop on your pants,” Candice whispered back.  The mixed expression of terror and empathy on her face told me she was not joking.

My 6th grade mind flashed to the events leading up to this point: I’d fed my horse that morning.  I’d sat on a beam in the barn.  In my white pants (that’s a middle schooler for ya).  I was late so I raced to the bus without checking a mirror. And now, I had just stood in front of my third period 6th grade English class confidently editing a sentence on the board.  With evidence of someone’s defecation for all to see.

Yep, you’re still not cool, I reminded myself.  How could you have been so dumb?

The bell rang. Candice and I stood up. She offered me her sweatshirt to tie around my waist since my mom wasn’t able to bring me pants and there was not one-single-way I was borrowing a pair from the nurse’s office. Heck no.

“I’ll wash it tonight,” I whispered gratefully as I took her sweatshirt. We headed down the 6th grade hallway toward our lockers.  I now had a new understanding of the subtle stench I’d been smelling all morning.

 

And so, it was with countless experiences like this during my 6th and 7th grade years that I label them as my “Lowest Confidence Years.”  Perhaps you can relate?

 

But to battle that confidence problem, God placed a middle-school warrior smack-dab into my life.  His name was Charlie Campbell.  He was the father of two other girls my age, and he was a youth group volunteer.

On Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, beat down by comparisons of popularity and athletic prowess – both of which I lacked – I would open the heavy, front doors of the church with anticipation and a little confidence, expecting to hear that big, booming voice proclaim, “Weeeeeeell, look who just walked in!  Mac!  How the heck are ya?”  The smile on Charlie’s face told me he was legitimately glad to see me.  ME, of all people.  Molly McCracken, a.k.a Mac to him.

In that moment, the anxiety of the girls’ locker room would disappear, and I’d feel peace and confidence expand in me like the steady inflating of a balloon.

At school, I was a quiet, unsure Molly.  But at church, I was a loud, confident Mac.  Because Charlie blew life and confidence into me each week.

 

During those years, my favorite place to be was at church.  It’s where I felt the best about myself.

That’s what a good nickname can do (and an adult who keeps showing up…I see you, youth workers!)

(Side note: eventually, my sister would join the youth group, also with the last name McCracken, so then I became Big Mac and she was Little Mac.  I couldn’t tell Charlie that no teenage girl wants to be BIG anything, so I never said a word. I just embraced being Big Mac, which he still calls me to this day.  Eventually our other two younger sisters would also enter the youth group and become Mini Mac and Micro Mac to Charlie.)

 

Jesus knew the power of a good nick name, too.

In Mark chapter 3, Jesus selects His twelve disciples.  Verses 16-19 list the twelve names, and next to James and John, the Bible tells us that they are both sons of a man named Zebedee, so we know they are brothers.  Then, it says, “But Jesus nicknamed them ‘Sons of Thunder.’”

This line just makes me smile so big.  Jesus, often known as a party-killer in today’s society, is the one making the nick names.  I’m telling you He was a FUN GUY. People LOVED being around Him, and children couldn’t get enough of Him.  And children know the fun people.  Let this always remind you that if you’d been around Him back then, you would have really liked Jesus.  And it’s one more reason that Heaven will be so. much. fun!!

Anyway, as a teacher, I can picture these two brothers.  I’ve known a few “sons of thunder” in my day.  You see them coming through the doors, their hands all over each other, their feet always at full-speed, their mouths constantly pouring forth words…and loudly.

I’ve known some “sons of thunder” as a student, too.  Algebra class.  Two friends, like brothers, and when they walked into the classroom, the mood changed.  They’d often announce their presence to everyone, and I sometimes wondered if our teacher’s deep breath and slow blink revealed her thought: Really, can they never be absent?  Not just once?

Nice boys.  But they were a lot.  They were loud and demanded attention.  Like thunder.

 

So, I can see that when James and John arrived to a place where Jesus had told the disciples to meet, that they didn’t arrive quietly.  I can imagine that they always had something to say, and it was probably never calmly.

Some resources say it means they had a nasty temper, too.  They were quick to get angry and be defensive.  Outbursts of rage.

Why would two brothers be this way?  It makes me wonder what their childhood was like.  Was their dad angry?  Did he work too much and never have time for them?  Maybe their mom lacked confidence (or sleep) and parented from desperation which allowed them to get away with too much, to steamroll people?  Were they outcasts in society, mocked by the other kids?  Did something worse happen to them? Why were they so angry?

I don’t know.  But Jesus did.  And He wanted them anyway.  He truthfully but lovingly acknowledged this personality trait of theirs that everyone noticed.  He gave them a nickname about it.  And whenever they arrived, I bet He’d say something like, ““Weeeeeeell, look who just walked in!  Here come The Sons of Thunder!  How the heck are ya?”  The smile on Jesus face told them He was legitimately glad to see them.  THEM, of all people.  James and John Zebedee, a.k.a “The Sons of Thunder” to Jesus.

These two rowdy guys would be changed by Jesus’ love for them.  James, John and Peter would be the only three witnesses of the transfiguration of Jesus when His human appearance transformed in front of them, and they saw who He really was. Dead Elijah and Moses joined them miraculously for that event, too (see Matthew 17:1-9).  It was a very powerful moment, something humans don’t normally see, I’d imagine.  I wonder what all Jesus said there.

But this love in the person of Jesus would lead Rowdy James to become the very first martyr after Christ’s death and resurrection.  And Rambunctious John, who nicknamed himself “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved,” – probably half-jokingly and half because he knew it to be true – would go on to write the books of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.  Two unlikely men with two eternal purposes.

 

A loving nickname can do that.  A nickname can make you feel seen, confident, and the most loved.  It is a seal of the depth of your relationship, a smile-inducing name reserved for a certain prized person. It can also be the spade that first breaks open the hard soil of hearts to let Love in.

Of course nicknames can also tear down.  But that’s not what Charlie did, and it’s not the kind of nick names Jesus gives us.

 

Do you wonder what nick name Jesus would give you?  The name that only He would call you because of the time and experiences you’ve had together, or the name He uses to tease you about that one thing. Never cutting, just funny.

Perhaps He identifies the thing He knows He wants to mold in us the most, reminding us that we can stay light-hearted about it because He already knows where He plans to grow us.

 

“The Sons of Thunder” may have originally been known for their loud and booming (and perhaps a bit obnoxious) ways, like the kind of annoying thunder that wakes a finally sleeping child.  But by the end of their lives, Jesus used them to leave a loud, explosive, and resounding mark on humanity, like the kind of robust and rumbling thunder that makes your mouth drop open in awe.

Ask Jesus what He calls you.

Whatever He sees in you, He has a plan to make your mouth drop open, if you let Him.

 

 

[Another side note: it wasn’t until writing this that I remembered the nick name “Big Mac.”  I smiled because we just named our son Mac (in honor of my dad who does not have a son to carry on the McCracken name) and a middle name Martin (in honor of Guy’s dad who has passed away).  Then, Mac entered the world at a whopping 9 pounds and 6 ounces, so he earned himself the nick name “Big Mac.”  Yet another reminder to me that God is always weaving the best stories.  Even when I was in middle school, God already knew about another Big Mac that would enter my life one day during a season of redemption.  You sneaky God!]

 

 

 

Prepare Him Room

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If you come into our house today, you might question whether you are amidst hoarders.

Our den has become the holding place for all that was already in the den, plus the laundry room, plus everything that goes in our bedroom…including our bed which is right smack-dab in the middle of all of it.  There is no door.  I holler down the hallway when I’m changing so the girls won’t accidentally walk in and have images of their post-partum step-mother in their head that should never be.

 

With the hope of a baby coming, last March, we decided to add a bedroom to our home.  It would be finished in June, just in time for me to organize and set things up while I was off for the summer.  Plenty of time, I assured myself.

It’s now December.  We’re sleeping in the den in the middle of cleaning products, random pieces of piled furniture, an over-sized box of dog bones, and baskets of unfolded laundry.  For the past six months, my first-born tendencies toward order and comfort have been stripped away slowly week-by-unfinished-week.

 

A month before our boy was to be born, I woke up one Saturday morning, overwhelmed that our son would not be coming home to the clean, organized, decorated house I had envisioned.  Our space was nowhere near ready for him.  There was no nursery set up yet.  Instead, he would have to sleep in a rocker next to our bed.  In the den with no door.  Next to a box of dog bones.

As it was, I already had to climb over stacks of books and laundry to get into my bed.  That meant I needed to clear a spot for him…amid the mess.

As my belly kept growing, people continued to ask about his nursery (which still had not even been started), so I’d respond by saying that similarly to Jesus’ birth, there is no room at the inn!

This was just not what I had ever envisioned when bringing a baby into the world.

 

 

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

This beautiful verse creates a delicate scene in my mind.  Mary, whether by choice or by necessity, didn’t focus on the fact that there were not cozy, ideal conditions for her son.  Perhaps she panicked, as I did, when she realized His welcome wouldn’t be how she ‘d envisioned it.  I wonder how long it took her to accept what would have to be.  As she set her squinky-faced baby in a feeding trough, did she chuckle to herself because she knew she’d tell Him this story for the rest of His life?  Though her swaddle probably didn’t include Velcro and the name of a hospital on the front of it, I would guess she smiled as she saw Him settle into the comfort of His snugly wrap, ready for His first milk-induced nap with a look of contentment on His kissable face.

Maybe it was in that moment she realized that those things really didn’t matter.  He was finally here.  He was hers.  That was all that mattered.

 

I felt the same way on December 7th, when our Mac Martin Huffman was placed on my chest.  I heard his first, deep cry, and nothing else mattered.  He was here, all 9 pounds 6 ounces of our bright-eyed boy, God’s large and lavish gift to me four years after the loss of my first son.  And I couldn’t wait to get him home, to our mess.

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For the past two weeks, he has been sleeping soundly in the rocker next to me.  In the middle of the night, I change his diaper on our bed, and I usually have to clear a spot amid the pillows, clothes, wipes and diapers, but he doesn’t need a lot of space.  We all have exactly what we need.  More on that and Mac in another post…

 

Over and over, I think about how Mary did exactly what God asks us to do during the Christmas season.  Despite the circumstances around her, she still made a place for Him.  As the classic carol proclaims, He simply wants us to “prepare Him room.”

No matter what our circumstances may be, He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t need us to clean everything up for Him.  He just wants us to clear a small space for Him in the midst of the mess, the chaos and the questions – to prepare a place for Him right where we are.

No matter what season you are in, my friend, He wants to be invited in.  Whether you’re doubting Him, you’re angry at Him, you’re not sure what to think about Him, or you’re overjoyed in Him this Christmas season, can you clear a small space for Him there?

He won’t force His way in, but His birth, which ushered Him willingly from the perfection of a Heavenly kingdom to a lifetime of human pain and a death of suffering, proves He loves us.  It proves He is on our side.

He came for us.  And for our mess.

So, may we prepare room for Him.

May we arrange, assemble, and make ready a space for Him this season before it is passed.

May we find a time to slow down in the silence, even for a moment, and welcome Him to come into our lives to do what He wants in us this next year.

May we prepare a small spot, cleared in the chaos, to allow Him to whisper His love and care into our hearts and doubts.

As the carol also says, despite the curse of sadness, death, and fear we find here on Earth, He comes to make His blessings flow in the hard things.

We just have to prepare Him room to do it.

 

Joy to the Word

Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.

Joy to the Earth, The Saviour reigns;
Let Men their Songs employ;
While Fields & Floods, Rocks, Hills & Plains
Repeat the sounding Joy.

No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

He rules the World with Truth and Grace,
And makes the Nations prove
The Glories of his Righteousness,
And Wonders of his Love.

Merry Christmas, you dear people!

Molly

Forgetting What Is Behind

The dried toothpaste spittle glared at me from the rim of the plastic, pink kids’ cup.  I slowly, begrudgingly placed my rinsed off toothbrush in the cup, taking care to prevent its canoodling with the other toothbrushes propped inside the cup. My face scrunched involuntarily in disgust.

I walked out to the kitchen.  Glaring at me through the window was the enormous mud hole in the backyard that will someday become an extra bedroom, but for now, it’s our mud holder.  Please Lord, make the rain stop.

So, I went to sit on the couch to just take a moment.  But as I approached the rumpled cushions, there was mud from a dog paw, a blanket of dog fur, and an overall odor of…dog.

And that’s when it hit me: I miss that little apartment sometimes.

 

Today, I am back in my hometown for a few days to speak at a conference.  I came a few days early to celebrate a friend and her baby.  The party played a slideshow of church trips, vacations, and every day moments that she and I had shared with our other lifelong friends. As I looked at the smiling faces in the photos, I was so grateful, but there was also a tiny ache.

I stayed in the home of another friend, a place that has brought me so much comfort during the darkest days, and I longed for that season with her again, despite how hard my life was during that time.  Her beautiful, decorated, and organized home reminded me of the beautiful, decorated, organized home I had back then.  I loved that house.

I drove around the manicured streets of my city, ate delicious food, and laughed with the people who know me the deepest.  I know it’s not for everyone, but for me it’s so comfortable here.

 

 

Life has changed dramatically even since one year ago when I lived in the comfort of my own, quiet apartment where everything was in its place, dogs stayed off the furniture, and I had all the spacious closets to myself.

After getting married in October, I was sling-shot from quiet comfort to a four-ring circus where I no longer independently control the schedule, the food, the money, or even where I sit during a movie night.  It’s been a shock at times.  I remember pieces of my life before today and long to return to their comfort.

“Lord,” I’ve prayed from my new home in Kentucky, “I want to be here.  I love being married to Guy more than anything.  But what do I do with these yearnings that creep up sometimes for moments and places and friendships from the past?  Help me to find contentment and peace with where I am today.”

One particular Saturday morning, after a long week of crazy, I found myself sitting at home alone.  The movies of the past were playing in my head, and I longed for a calmer and cleaner house, closer entertainment and shopping options, and the convenience of popping over to a close friend’s house to chat.  I could not get these things out of my mind.

It wasn’t that I regretted my move, because being loved by Guy has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.  But I was so exhausted by the mental run-around of constantly wishing I could have some things the way they used to be.

Do you ever get stuck there?

 

So, I sat down on the couch.  I remembered what all God had brought me through – deaths, divorce, and loss upon loss – and I was so grateful.  During that season, I can remember thinking, at least my friends and my home haven’t changed.  I’m glad some important things get to stay the same.

And yet now, even those things are different.  Help, Lord!

I began reading where I’d left off, Philippians 3.  Paul said, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us up to heaven” (vs. 13).

In the verses previous, Paul had just listed his human qualifications, education, and prestigious positions.  I bet Paul experienced the comforts this life had to offer.  I wonder what it was like for him to give all that up in order to follow where Christ was calling him – traveling the world in harsh conditions to tell people about Christ.  Maybe as a kid Paul just wanted to reach the highest rank of Pharisee (I don’t even know what that would be), but maybe then he could have a comfortable and predictable life.  Sometimes I think that’s what I want when I’m really honest with myself.

But instead, Paul, who used to have a plush life, is telling us to “forget what is behind.”  I’d read this verse a dozen times in reference to the painful parts of my past, but suddenly it smacked me between the eyes with a new meaning: sometimes “forgetting what is behind” means we even have to forget (or turn our focus from) the GOOD things that are behind us so that we can focus on what is ahead of us.

I’d never thought that I might need to forget the good things of the past by not giving them so much thought.

 

Later in Philippians 4, Paul tells us the secret to his contentment.  “…For I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation.  For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Phil. 4:11-13).

With the help of Christ, we can forget what is behind and focus on what He is doing right now right in front of us.

I can focus not on the crusty toothpaste cup but on the two young lives I get to pour into.

I can focus not on the mud hole but on the home the Lord is building within these walls that is a love like I’ve never known before.

I can focus not on the nasty couch made possible by a particularly crazy dog who has rubbed off on my calm dog, but on the ways I’m getting to learn and choose to love all of God’s creations.  And bless his doggy heart, he sure tries to sit calmly sometimes…we’re both learning.

 

When I’m tempted to stew on the good things of the past, I can choose to make my mind remember that Jesus is doing something good now.  And that’s where He wants me to place my thoughts.  He’s still not done with this story.

 

Today, I sit in a quiet, clean space to work.  But all I can think about it getting home to that currently cramped and chaotic place we call home.  I’m thankful for a fresh perspective and a reminder that God wants my attention only on today and what good He’s preparing to do next.

When I walk through that door on Tuesday night, I might feel like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life after he gets a second chance at his crazy, beautiful life.  I might even exclaim like George, “I love you crusty toothpaste cup!  I love you mud hole!  I love you nasty couch!”

It’s all about perspective: We forget what is behind. We strain toward what is ahead.

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Puzzle Pieces

My heart pounded, and my hands grew clammy as I waited for her response.

“The likelihood that any of your future children would have Leigh’s Disease is 25%,” she said. “You are both recessive carriers of this gene.  There is a 1 in 70,000 chance that two people would both carry it.  However,…you do both carry it.”

With disappointment, I let out the breath I had been holding.  The genetic counselor was younger than me, clearly pregnant with her first child, and bubbling over with joy and possibility (or so I assumed).  I glanced out the window. The clouds were low and thick on the dark, gray January day, perfectly reflecting the condition of my heart.  It had been only two months since our son passed away.

I hadn’t yet grieved the loss of my son, and now I also had to grieve the loss of not having more biological children.

There was risk.  I wanted to be a mother so badly that I was willing to risk loving and losing another child.  A 75% gamble in a positive direction seemed pretty good to me.  But my husband didn’t feel the same way, and I understood that perspective, too.  We’d just gone through hell.

As we asked our final questions and tried to comprehend what this would mean for the future, the genetic counselor added, “Well, with someone else, the chance would be back to 1 in 70,000, but with the two of you it is 1 in 4.”

Dagger in my heart.  My eyebrows furrowed at the thought, Why would she even say something like that at a time like this?  It seemed so insensitive.  “Someone else” was not on the table and never would be.

 

The next few months, I had some pretty stiff words with God.  He knew that I wanted to be a mother so badly, more than anything else.  I missed the smell of baby head, cooing over him as I changed his diaper, his big blue eyes and edible toes.  I missed my first glimpse of him in the mornings.  I missed him so much.

“Lord,” I wept, “Why are You doing this to me? YOU have given me this strong desire to be a mother, and I am so thankful that I got to be Tage’s mom for eight wonderful months.  But I don’t understand this at all.  How can I ever be a mother with a husband who doesn’t want to risk biological children and doesn’t want to adopt? How are You going to resolve this?  Will I ever feel happy again?”

Molly, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

“Yes, Lord, I know that verse.  But what exactly do You mean.  You’ll give me what I desire?  Or You’ll put in me new desires You want me to have?  I don’t know.  I know You know the way You made me, and I want to delight myself in You above all, not in my role as a mother…But I don’t understand….This just seems so cruel.”  I took a deep breath. “…but I know You’re not cruel. Help me.”

Molly, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 “Ugh, I know, God.  I know this is what You say.  Help me to believe it.  I don’t know how you will deal with this desire in me, but I trust that either You will help me to be okay with not having children, or you will take this desire away from me.  I want what You want for me.  I know You love me, and I know Your way is best.  I just really, really don’t understand it now.”

It’s going to be okay, Molly.  I promise.  I know what I’m doing.

I blew my nose one more time.

I looked at my dog, Marty, lying on the floor beside me.  “Now we wait and see,” I whispered.

 

Three months later, I met my friend Kara for a glass of wine and sushi.  While shoving California Roll into my mouth, I relayed the information the genetic counselor had told us and of my husband’s desires regarding more children.  “So…that’s that,” I concluded resolvedly.

“I’m so sorry, Mol,” she began.  She paused.  “But I had a dream recently, one of the ones where it feels real.  You just know it.”  I nodded along.  “You were pregnant, Molly, beaming with joy!  I woke up from this dream, and I just knew it was prophetic.  I really believe God told me you will be pregnant one day!”

Kara is not the type to throw prophecies around.  In fact, she had never done so before in the history of our friendship, and she’s not one to say something to make me “feel” better, because really, that would have been cruel.

I wanted to believe her so badly.  I thought about it long after our conversation. But my husband didn’t want biological kids.  Or adopted kids.  I wouldn’t divorce him for this, so clearly, the Lord was going to do something with those three pieces, and I would have to surrender to it.

But the Lord has way more pieces than we ever imagine.

I came across this powerful reminder this week:

 “When God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, Abraham believed Him. God had also said, ‘Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars,’ even though such a promise seemed utterly impossible!  And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though he knew he was too old to be a father at the age of one hundred and that Sarah, his wife, had never been able to have children.

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger and in this he brought glory to God.  He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything He promised” (Romans 4:18-21).

When God speaks, do we believe Him?  When promises or dreams seem utterly impossible to us, does our faith weaken?  When all the pieces we hold in our hand about the situation don’t fit to construct what we have in our mind, what do we do with them?  When it’s not working the way we thought, do we waver in belief or grow stronger in faith?

Abraham was just a man.  He wanted a child, and so did his wife, probably more than anything else.  For decades, the answer was not “no,” it was “not yet.”  But they didn’t know that, of course.  When God finally said, “Okay, now,” Sarah laughed.  She knew she was too old, and that having a baby would be impossible.

But the pieces God holds make nothing impossible.

Do we know that about Him?  Abraham did. “He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything He promised.”  Are we absolutely convinced that God is able to do anything He promises?  A conviction like this takes personal experience with Him.

 

 

In those dark and gray early months of 2015, God already knew what He was going to do with this desire He put in me.  He already knew I was about to go through an unwanted divorce, grieve that, move out of my house, be introduced to a guy named Guy who had experienced similar losses to mine, fall in love with him, move to Kentucky, and marry him in my dad’s backyard on a beautiful fall evening.

 

 

And He also knew that in April of 2018, we’d get to see our baby for the first time.

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Pieces, that in 2015, I had no idea God even held.  But He did.

…and Molly was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything He promised.

 

 

 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

“I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten.”  Joel 2:25